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Apicomplexans pulling the strings: manipulation of the host cell cytoskeleton dynamics



Invasive stages of apicomplexan parasites require a host cell to survive, proliferate and advance to the next life cycle stage. Once invasion is achieved, apicomplexans interact closely with the host cell cytoskeleton, but in many cases the different species have evolved distinct mechanisms and pathways to modulate the structural organization of cytoskeletal filaments. The host cell cytoskeleton is a complex network, largely, but not exclusively, composed of microtubules, actin microfilaments and intermediate filaments, all of which are modulated by associated proteins, and it is involved in diverse functions including maintenance of cell morphology and mechanical support, migration, signal transduction, nutrient uptake, membrane and organelle trafficking and cell division. The ability of apicomplexans to modulate the cytoskeleton to their own advantage is clearly beneficial. We here review different aspects of the interactions of apicomplexans with the three main cytoskeletal filament types, provide information on the currently known parasite effector proteins and respective host cell targets involved, and how these interactions modulate the host cell physiology. Some of these findings could provide novel targets that could be exploited for the development of preventive and/or therapeutic strategies.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Länggass-Strasse 122, Bern 3012, Switzerland. Tel: +41 31 631 2396. Fax: +41 31 631 2477. E-mail:


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Apicomplexans pulling the strings: manipulation of the host cell cytoskeleton dynamics



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